Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome

Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome:
With some thoughts on the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus and the Tomb of Julius II
Sally Hickson
University of Guelph
En 1505, Michel-Ange est appelé à Rome pour travailler sur le tombeau monumental du
pape Jules II. Six mois plus tard, alors que Michel-Ange se trouvait à Carrare, le sculpteur
et antiquaire Gian Cristoforo Romano était également appelé à Rome par Jules II. En
juin 1506, un agent de la cour de Mantoue rapportait que les « premiers sculpteurs de
Rome », Michel-Ange et Gian Cristoforo Romano, avaient été appelés ensemble à Rome
afin d’inspecter et d’authentifier le Laocoön, récemment découvert. Que faisait Gian
Cristoforo à Rome, et que faisait-il avec Michel-Ange? Pourquoi a-t-il été appelé spécifiquement pour authentifier une statue de Rhodes. Cet essai propose l’hypothèse que Gian
Cristoforo a été appelé à Rome par le pape probablement pour contribuer aux plans de
son tombeau, étant donné qu’il avait travaillé sur des tombeaux monumentaux à Pavie
et Crémone, avait voyagé dans le Levant et vu les ruines du Mausolée d’Halicarnasse,
et qu’il était un sculpteur et un expert en antiquités reconnu. De plus, cette hypothèse
renforce l’appartenance du développement du tombeau de Jules II dans le contexte antiquaire de la Rome papale de ce temps, et montre, comme Cammy Brothers l’a avancé
dans son étude des dessins architecturaux de Michel-Ange (2008), que les idées de ce
dernier étaient influencées par la tradition et par ses contacts avec ses collègues artistes.
n July 30, 1505 Gian Cristoforo Romano (1456–1512)—sculptor, medalist,
antiquarian, and courtier—wrote to Isabella d’Este in Mantua to inform
her that he had been called to Rome by Pope Julius II.1 The summons came just six
months after Michelangelo had arrived in the city, corresponding, in fact, to the
period just before the Florentine departed for Carrara to select marble for the Pope’s
tomb.2 By 1506, Donato Bramante was in Rome planning the new St. Peter’s, and
the Milanese goldsmith and medalist Caradosso Foppa was also in the city, perhaps
already working on the famous portrait medal of Julius II with the projected façade
for Bramante’s new church on its reverse.3 On 18 April 1506, while Gian Cristoforo
was still in Rome, the foundation stone of St. Peter’s was laid by Julius II.
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The 1505 papal summons arrived when Gian Cristoforo was in Milan working on
the design for an arca, or tomb, that Isabella d’Este had commissioned to honour the
recently deceased Beata Osanna Andreasi of Mantua (d.1505). Although the Andreasi
monument was to be installed in a church in Mantua, Gian Cristoforo created the
design while in Milan, where he conferred with Osanna’s official biographer, Fra
Silvestri, who reported regularly to Isabella about progress on the monument.4 At
the Pope’s direct request, then, Gian Cristoforo was among the first wave of artists
called to effect the classical revival crucial to the stabilization and glorification of
the new reign of Julius II and the Roman church triumphant.
Although we know about his summons by the Pope, it is not clear exactly
what Gian Cristoforo was called to the city to do. Although he was eventually
charged with working on the Pope’s project to renew the sanctuary of the Santa
Casa at Loreto, where he died in 1512, he did not go there until 1508 or 1509. We
know that in 1506 he made a portrait medal to honour Julius II, but he does not
reappear in the papal account books until 1509 when he was paid for two more
medals celebrating Julian expansion in Rome and Civitavecchia.5 Although
Castiglione’s Courtier places him in Urbino in 1508, we know from other documents that he was in Naples before that. In late 1509 Gian Cristoforo left Rome
with Bramante to work on the Santa Casa in Loreto, and he is documented there
continuously in the last two years of his life, from 1510–2.6 Since by this time he
had spent the better part of four years in Rome, it seems worth asking again what
exactly he might have been doing there.7
Of course, he was originally from Rome, thus the appellation “Romano.” His
father, the sculptor Isaia of Pisa, died when Gian Cristoforo was still a child and was
therefore probably not responsible for his training. Instead, art historians speculate
that Gian Cristoforo studied with Andrea Bregno (d.1506).8 Bregno came from a
successful workshop of sculptors in northern Italy and, after being invited to Rome
by Sixtus IV, became the most important designer of funerary monuments of his
age, contributing to the redesign of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which
would eventually house a number of important della Rovere tombs.9 In 1504, Julius
II summoned Andrea Sansovino from Florence and put him to work on other tomb
monuments in Santa Maria del Popolo, specifically the memorials to Cardinal
Ascanio Maria Sforza (d.1505) and Cardinal Girolamo della Rovere (d.1507).10 By
continuing the patronage of his uncle Sixtus IV in Santa Maria del Popolo, Julius
exemplified the same spirit of dynastic, papal continuity he brought to his patronage
of the Sistine Chapel. Of course, such patronage also put him in touch with the most
avant-garde designers of funerary monuments available in Rome.
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 5
In the 1480s, following his apprenticeship with Bregno in Rome, Gian Cristoforo
was in Urbino and Ferrara; by 1490 he was in Milan, where he worked on his first
major project in 1494–5, contributing to the sculptural decoration of the grandiose
tomb of Giangaleazzo Visconti at the Certosa in Pavia (with Benedetto Briosco, see
illustration 1).11 At court, he supplied the Duchess Beatrice d’Este with a portrait bust
that was very much admired by her sister, Isabella d’Este, and he also continued to
work on larger-scale sculptural projects. For example, he designed a tomb for Pier
Francesco Trecchi in the church of Sant’Agata in Cremona, notable because it is
made completely of Carrara marble.12 In 1496, when the court of Milan was occupied by the French King Louis XII, Gian Cristoforo, like many other artists, was
forced to seek patronage elsewhere and found refuge in Mantua working full-time
for Isabella d’Este, presumably on her sister’s recommendation.
Isabella was one of the most distinguished collectors and patrons of the age,
responsible for creating new standards of splendour in the accumulation and display
of antiquities. In her Grotta, her private museum of antiquities, she delighted in displaying antique cameos, bronzes, and small marble statues which she displayed next
to their modern all’antica counterparts. This spirit of classical revival was evoked
in the famous allegorical paintings she commissioned from Andrea Mantegna,
Pietro Perugino, and others to adorn her private humanist study.13 Aside from work
on medals and portrait busts, Gian Cristoforo’s major undertaking for Isabella
was the design and execution of exquisitely carved architectural fittings for her
Grotta and studiolo, such as the famous multi-coloured marble doorframe with its
classical allusions to musical harmony intended to reflect the intellectual harmony
of Isabella’s rooms.14 In addition to his work as a sculptor, Gian Cristoforo’s most
important role in Mantua was as the trusted consultant to Isabella regarding her
acquisition of antiquities, a subject on which he was regarded by contemporaries
as an expert. In Mantua he was rated second only to Mantegna in terms of his
antiquarian expertise.15 He was well-respected among his contemporaries and
makes an appearance in several literary works, most significantly appearing as
an interlocutor in the first book of Castiglione’s Courtier, where he defends the
superiority of sculpture over painting.16
While Gian Cristoforo was celebrated by his contemporaries as a talented
and well-mannered courtier, and as a sculptor, medalist, and antiquarian, it is also
important to remember that, by dint of experience, he was a very experienced and
talented expert when it came to the planning and execution of tomb monuments.
The papal summons came, in fact, when he was in Milan designing the tomb of the
Beata Osanna. It is possible that it was this skill that particularly qualified him for
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a papal summons at precisely the time that Julius II was set on building the new St.
Peter’s and laying plans for his own papal tomb.
The Tomb of Julius II
Michelangelo’s original plans for the Julius tomb have long been a source of debate
among art historians.17 Most of our ideas about the original structure are based on
the description written by Ascanio Condivi in his Life of Michelangelo (published
in 1553) where he memorably characterized Michelangelo’s ultimate failure to
build the tomb—as he had envisioned it—to be the central tragedy of his career.18
Condivi was a minor workshop assistant to whom Michelangelo seems to have
virtually dictated his biography, so it is surprising that the tomb description, which
must have been supplied by Michelangelo himself, is so confused and difficult to
visualize. Part of the problem must certainly have been that Condivi was writing
retrospectively about a plan that had changed several times since Michelangelo first
conceived it in 1505. Condivi writes:
E per darne qualche saggio, brevemente dico che questa sepoltura doveva aver quattro
facce: due di braccia diciotto, che servivano per fianchi; e due di dodici, per teste,
talché veniva ad essere un quadro e mezzo. Intorno intorno di fuore erano nicchia,
termini, ai quali, sopra certi dadi che movendosi da terra sporgevano in fuori, erano
altre statue legate come prigioni, le quali rappresentavano l’arti liberali, similmente
pittura, scultura e architettura, ognuna colle sue note, sicché facilmente potesse esser
conosciuta per quel che era; denotando per queste, insieme con papa Giulio, esser
prigioni della morte tutte le virtù, come quelle che non fossero mai per trovare da
chi cotanto fossero favorite e nutrite, quanto da lui. Sopra queste correva una cornice,
che intorno legava tutta l’opera, nel cui piano eran quattro grandi statue, una delle
quali; cioè il Moisè, si vede in San Pietro ad Vincula, e di questa si parlerà al suo
luogo. Così ascendendo l’opera, si finiva in un piano, sopra il quale erano due agnoli
che sostenevano un’arca: uno d’essi faceva sembiante di ridere, come quello che si
rallegrasse che l’anima del papa fosse tra gli beati spiriti ricevuta; l’altro di piangere,
come se si dolesse che ‘l mondo fosse d’un tal uomo spogliato. Per una delle testate,
cioè per quella che era dalla banda di sopra, s’entrava dentro alla sepoltura in una
stanzetta, a guisa d’un marmo, dove si doveva seppellire il corpo del papa: ogni cosa
lavorata con maraviglioso artificio. Brevemente, in tutta l’opera andavano sopra
quaranta statue, senza le storie di mezzo rilievo fatte di bronzo, tutte a proposito di
tal caso, e dove si poteva vedere i fatti di tanto pontefice.19
The full description is important, I think, because its ambiguity has prompted
art and architectural historians to read it in various ways. Condivi describes a
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 7
two-storey free-standing mausoleum, copiously decorated with sculpture and
capped with some kind of catafalque or sarcophagus. This structure would contain
and enframe an open, centralized space, described by Condivi as a kind of tempietto
that would be used to house a marble chest containing the pope’s body. Both Condivi
and Vasari, who changed his original 1550 account of the tomb in the 1568 edition of
the Lives to better reflect Condivi’s description, described the proposed sculptural
program which would celebrate Julius as a patron of the liberal arts. While the
over-arching theme of the iconographical program is clear, there is less agreement
about Michelangelo’s intentions for the structure of the tomb. The situation is made
more difficult because we have few early drawings by Michelangelo that help to
elucidate the original plan.
In his examination of the corpus of Michelangelo drawings, Michael Hirst
identified a drawing, now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, which he
concluded demonstrates Michelangelo’s earliest thoughts about the tomb in 1505.20
Cammy Brothers, who has recently examined Michelangelo’s drawings precisely in
the context of the evolution of his architectural thought, agrees that the New York
drawing shows Michelangelo’s original plan.21 The drawing shows the narrow end bay
of what appears to be a monumental structure of two levels, a central arch containing
the semi-reclining effigy of the pope supported by angels, and upper and lower
stories consisting architecturally of superimposed pilasters which frame numerous
standing and seated sculptures. Just after Julius died in 1513, Michelangelo was hired
by his heirs to continue the tomb, and Hirst and Brothers agree that the description
Condivi gives probably reflects this second plan, as found in a drawing copied from
Michelangelo’s 1513 plan by Giacomo Rocchetti (now in Berlin) and in a drawing by
Michelangelo himself (now in the Uffizi) which gives a partial view of his ideas for
the lower storey.22 In this second conception, the tomb is a much more monumental
structure, the central arch soaring above the lower storey, and many of the sculptures
seem to be independent of the frame of the architecture. Here the writhing slaves
actually seem to move to obscure many of the applied pilasters. All of the drawings
are elevations that depict one side of the four unequal sides that Condivi describes,
and all allude to a three-dimensional structure. Comparing the drawings, Brothers
has demonstrated that Michelangelo made certain modifications to the tomb plan
between 1505 and 1513, fundamentally changing the width and rhythm of the bays
and making the figures considerably less restrained, changes that transformed what
was originally a much more traditional and sober classicizing tomb into a structure
that would have fairly seethed with dynamic and dramatic figures.23 What did not
change, however, was the idea of creating a free-standing mausoleum structure on a
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monumental scale, the likes of which had not been seen since antiquity. It was only
later, in 1545, that the final structure was “compromised” and completed as the wall
tomb that is now found in San Pietro in Vincoli (Illustration 2).24
Art and architectural historians have wondered about the origin of this freestanding mausoleum plan. Some have suggested that the idea originated with Julius
himself, who wanted a monument that echoed the imperial tombs he saw in Rome.
Alfred Frazer suggested that Michelangelo based his original design on ancient coins
that depicted imperial tombs as well as temporary columnar funeral pyres that some
Renaissance antiquarians mistook for permanent mausolea.25 Art historians have
also cited more immediate architectural precedents such as Alberti’s Rucellai Chapel
in Florence and Andrea Sansovino’s tomb monument to Cardinal Ascanio Sforza in
Santa Maria del Popolo, both of which were free-standing monuments.26
Many years ago, however, Christoph Frommel suggested that the initial design
for Julius’s tomb was modeled on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.27 One of the difficulties with this proposal has been in finding any direct link between the mausoleum,
the plan for the Julian tomb, and Michelangelo. Based on the evidence I will now
present, one source for information about the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was surely
Gian Cristoforo Romano. Gian Cristoforo had traveled to the Levant, had expertise
in tomb design, and was, as we have seen, called to Rome by Julius at exactly the time
he was planning his tomb. Furthermore, as described below, he was directly linked
with Michelangelo by contemporaries, who reported that in 1506, at the Pope’s request,
he had accompanied Michelangelo to inspect the recently unearthed statue of the
Laocoön. In order to examine the possibility that Gian Cristoforo played a role in
disseminating information about the Mausoleum in Roman circles, information that
might well have informed Julius’s conception of the tomb and might even have had
some influence on Michelangelo’s thoughts in the initial planning stages, I will trace
what information was available at the time about the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus,
how and why Gian Cristoforo had this particular knowledge, and how that knowledge
found its way to papal circles.
Knowledge of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
in Sixteenth-Century Rome
The tomb of Mausolus was built by Artemisia II at Halicarnassus in the fourth
century BC to honour her husband and brother, Mausolus of Caria. Today the site
is reduced to its bare outlines, but some idea of its original appearance has come
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 9
down to us from literary descriptions. The most complete account is found in the
Natural History of Pliny the Elder:
on the north and south sides it extends for 63 feet, but the length of the facades is less,
the total length of the facades and sides being 440 ft. The building rises to a height
of 25 cubits and is enclosed by 36 columns. The Greek word for the surrounding
colonnade is ‘pteron,’ ‘a wing.’ (…) Far above the colonnade there is a pyramid as
high again as the lower structure and tapering in 24 stages to the top of its peak. At
the summit there is a four-horse chariot of marble, and this was made by Pythis. The
addition of this chariot rounds off the whole work and brings it to height of 140 ft. 28
This description is important because, alongside the text of Vitruvius, Pliny
was the most frequently consulted literary authority for artists, architects, and
antiquarians at the centre of the Julian Renaissance in Rome.29 Vitruvius also wrote
about Halicarnassus in his Ten Books of Architecture, perhaps basing his account on
an actual visit there:
… this site is similar to the curvature of a theater. In the lowermost part, next to the
port, the forum has been set up. At a height halfway up the slope, at the landing
between the tiers of seats, so to speak, there is a street of spacious breadth, in the
centre of which the Mausoleum has been made with such outstanding care that it
is listed among the seven wonders of the world.30
Such descriptions undoubtedly inspired Renaissance travellers to seek out
Halicarnassus. But what, if any, archaeological evidence about the Mausoleum was
actually available to antiquarians in the Renaissance? Travelers who visited the
Aegean islands in the twelfth century describe the Mausoleum site as impressive
and intact, but an earthquake in the early fourteenth century destroyed most of
the structure.31 Early in the Renaissance the most famous account was given by the
antiquarian Cyriacus of Ancona (1391–1452), who was inspired by Pliny’s Natural
History to travel the Aegean in search of monuments described there and who
probably recorded his impressions of the Mausoleum. (Unfortunately, these do not
exist in the surviving portions of his Commentaries.)32 In the wake of the Plinian
revival of the fifteenth century, the Mausoleum was resurrected by antiquarians
who drew imaginative reconstructions based on the written accounts. A structure
resembling Pliny’s description appears in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili published
in Venice in 1499. A woodcut of the imagined Mausoleum, based on drawings by
the architect and theorist Fra Giovanni Giocondo, was used to illustrate the first
Italian translation and commentary on Vitruvius by Cesare Cesariano, printed in
Milan in 1521 (Vitruvius II, 8, f.41v, see illustration 3).33
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In 1522 the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who resided on the island of
Rhodes, plundered what remained of the Mausoleum in order to fortify their mainland stronghold, the castle of Saint Peter, which still exists today near modern-day
Bodrum in Turkey.34 As we shall see, it was the presence of the Knights on the
island of Rhodes, and their activities at the Mausoleum site long before 1522, that
most likely brought the tomb to the attention of antiquarians and architects and
perhaps inspired the design for the Julian tomb.
Gian Cristoforo Romano, the Mausoleum, and Michelangelo
The analysis of Gian Cristoforo’s possible involvement in the tomb project begins by
examining his intelligence about the Mausoleum. Surviving documentary evidence
has long led art historians to surmise that Gian Cristoforo Romano travelled in the
Levant some time before 1503. The inference has been drawn from a letter written
in September 1503 by Lorenzo da Pavia, an agent for Isabella d’Este in Venice, who
recommended that she buy a Hellenistic bronze statue recently arrived in Venice
from the island of Rhodes (now identified as the Adorante, State Museum, Berlin).35
Knowing that Isabella always liked the validation of an expert, Lorenzo added that
the statue had been authenticated by Gian Cristoforo Romano who confirmed that
he had seen it while it was in Rhodes. This statement has always been used to allude
to the possibility of Gian Cristoforo’s travel in the Levant; a new document now
confirms this trip. On November 25, 1501 Mario Equicola wrote to the Mantua court
to say that Gian Cristoforo would be in touch “when he returned from his journey
to the Levant.”36 Why is this important? The letter proves conclusively that Gian
Cristoforo did travel to the Levant, and that the expertise about antiquities that he
formed as the result of those travels led contemporaries to turn to him as an authority
on Greek antiquities—an expertise that might well have been an important reason
for his summons to Rome.
The earliest notice we have for Gian Cristoforo in Rome is on 30 October
1505 when Isabella wrote to him, on the eve of his departure from Bologna, to ask
him to pursue some items for her from the estate of the antiquarian Giovanni
Ciampolini.37 He must have arrived in Rome shortly afterward. On 1 December he
wrote to Isabella to inform her about various antiquities available in the city and
to congratulate her on the acquisition of an antique Sleeping Cupid by Praxiteles
which she had recently purchased from a Roman collection and which would
serve as the pendant to the modern copy by Michelangelo that she had acquired
some years before.38 Aside from these letters about antiquities, in which he reveals
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himself to be firmly ensconced in the society of key cardinals and prelates in Rome,
our first notice of his other activities in Rome occurs after January of 1506, when
the statue of the Laocoön was unearthed on the Esquiline Hill. As is well known,
Michelangelo and Giuliano da Sangallo rushed to the site to identify the statue
while it was still in the ground, and identified it on the basis of its description in
the Natural History of Pliny the Elder.39
One of the first collectors outside of Rome to hear about the find was Isabella
d’Este. A Mantuan agent in Rome, Ludovico Canossa, wrote on 18 January 1506 to
tell her that he had discussed the new discovery with Ludovico Brognolo who was
on his way to Mantua to give her a verbal account of the statue.40 The bidding for
the newly-discovered group was fast and furious. On January 31 Sabadino degli
Arienti, a humanist with close ties to the court of Ferrara and loyal to Isabella
d’Este, wrote to tell her about a letter recently received by Cardinal Raffaello Riario
regarding the statue, in which it was intimated that Cardinal Galeotto Franciotti
della Rovere had offered to buy it for 1000 ducats. Julius II was not inclined to sell.
In fact, Sabadino offered that the owner of the vineyard where the group had been
found “le tene in la sua camera apreso lo lecto ben guardate” (“keeps it in his room,
close to his bed and well guarded”).41 On March 7 Canossa wrote to lament that
Isabella would not have the statue to place among the treasures in her Grotta.42
On the first of June 1506, when much of the initial furor had died down, Cesare
Trivulzio recorded in a letter that the statue had now been thoroughly inspected
by a committee consisting of Michelangelo and Gian Cristoforo Romano, whom
he called “the leading sculptors in Rome.”43 The pairing of Michelangelo and
Gian Cristoforo prompts some speculation as to what they were doing together,
inspecting a sculpture for Julius II.
As we have seen, Gian Cristoforo had experience in the Levant and he was
an acknowledged expert on Rhodian sculpture, having authenticated the Berlin
Adorante when it was in Venice; on that basis alone it seems logical that he would
be called upon to examine the most famous antiquity of Rhodian manufacture
that had ever been excavated in Rome. But I would also propose that the pairing of
Michelangelo and Gian Cristoforo Romano can be examined in quite a different
light. On a practical basis, nothing in Michelangelo’s background as a sculptor had
prepared him for a project like the papal tomb, which demanded the integration
of over 40 life-sized sculptures into an architectural framework. Previous to 1505
his sculptural work consisted chiefly of medium-sized figures added to tombs or
altars, such as that of Saint Dominic in Bologna and the Piccolomini altar in Siena,
or large-scale free-standing figures like the David he had just completed in Florence,
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and the figural ensemble of his Pietà, which had made his reputation in Rome. None
of these works combined figures with architecture. By the time of his summons,
however, Gian Cristoforo Romano had worked on several projects that would have
given him the expertise to at least consult on the Julius tomb. His contributions to
the mausoleum of Giangaleazzo Visconti at the Certosa of Pavia led to other commissions, such as the tomb for Pier Francesco Trecchi in San Vincenzo, Cremona
(now in the church dedicated to Sant’Agata) and the arca of the Beata Osanna
Andreasi that once stood in the church of San Domenico in Mantua (destroyed in
1797); he had also been a consultant on the reliefs by the Lombardi in the chapel
containing the arca of St. Anthony at the Santo in Padua.44
Of course, it is difficult to argue that Michelangelo needed any help with the
tomb project; his capacity for startling invention would soon be more than evident
in the Sistine ceiling. As Charles Robertson argued, however, even the conception for the ceiling, in terms of its architectural illusionism, might well have been
derived from ideas that he borrowed from Bramante.45 Although the ceiling was a
triumph, the final outcome of the tomb was not nearly so positive—partly because
Michelangelo was being hampered by preconceived notions that the Pope had about
the design and also, as Condivi asserted, because his plans for the tomb were being
frustrated by the Milanese contingent in Rome. One wonders what those frustrations
were. Gian Cristoforo was certainly part of the Milanese contingent (even if by way
of Mantua). Moreover, he combined knowledge of tomb design with expertise in
Greek antiquity. Part of this expertise included knowledge about excavations that
were being undertaken at the time at the site of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus,
knowledge derived from his acquaintance with another important Milanese figure
in Rome, Fra Sabba da Castiglione.
Gian Cristoforo, Fra Sabba da Castiglione, and the Mausoleum Site
Another important figure who knew Gian Cristoforo and had direct knowledge of
the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and who was also associated with papal circles in
Rome, was the monk, antiquarian, and collector Fra Sabba da Castiglione (c.1480–
1554). After joining the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Fra Sabba
was sent to their headquarters at Rhodes from 1505–8. In 1508 he was transferred
from Rhodes to Rome and spent the next seven years in the service of Fabrizio del
Carretto, Procurator General of the Order of the Knights of St. John in the papal
city.46 Fra Sabba remained in Rome until 1516, after which he moved permanently
to the Commenda at Faenza. While he was in Rome he moved in the same circles
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 13
as Gian Cristoforo, and knew Bramante, Raphael, the Sangallo family, and Baldassare Castiglione.47 Aside from his successful ecclesiastical career, Fra Sabba is
most famous for his knowledge of antiquities and his early theoretical discourse
on collecting, matters he wrote about in his Ricordi, published in Venice in 1554. In
this work, in his list of the best modern masters of sculpture capable of rivalling the
ancients, he reserves special praise for Michelangelo and for “my Giovan Cristoforo
Romano,” reinforcing the link between the two as the great giants among modern
masters of sculpture.48
Therefore, in 1505 and for several years afterward, at precisely the time that Gian
Cristoforo was in Rome, Fra Sabba was in Rhodes, where he spent at least part of
his time actively acquiring antiquities for Isabella d’Este in Mantua. In August of
1505, Fra Sabba wrote to Isabella about the mainland excavations at the Castle of St.
Peter—the mainland site of the Knights, which was being rebuilt and refurbished
using masonry and other salvageable materials from the nearby site of the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus. In September of 1505 he reported to Isabella that:
The Monsignor of Chiamonte, governor of Milan, has written to the Grand Master
of Rhodes (Aimery d’Amboise), who is his uncle, about the fact that it has presently
occurred to him in response to certain propositions that he is in great need of statues and other antiquities, and given that the island of Rhodes, and similarly at the
Castle of St. Peter, and at the great sepulcher that Artemisia made for her husband,
Mausolus, are places filled with such things, he has asked his Reverence if he would
deign to share these with him.49
On 1 October 1506, after a journey to Jerusalem, Sabba reported that he had
received a letter from the captain general of San Pietro who told him that beneath
the still visible ruins of the Mausoleum complex, workers had recently unearthed
an elaborately carved sepulcher which he hoped he might be able to secure for
Isabella’s collection. In April of 1507 he wrote to tell her that he planned to send
an antique marble torso from Naxos, assuring her that its superb quality would be
verified either by Mantegna or by Gian Cristoforo Romano, both of whom he knew
Isabella relied on as consultants about the authenticity and quality of antiquities. In
October of 1507, Fra Sabba reported that he had spoken to an engineer from Cremona
(Bartolino de Castiglione) about the feasibility of transporting the sepulchre that
had been found at the Mausoleum site to Mantua.50
Although the transport of the sepulchre never transpired, as the result of
Fra Sabba’s frequent reports to Isabella d’Este, first-hand intelligence about the
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was circulating in Mantua and beyond, to Milan and
Venice, where Fra Sabba identified individual collectors, agents, and officials who
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14 Sally Hickson
were interested in plundering the site for available antiquities. This was especially
true for Milan, since Charles D’Amboise, the governor of the city, was the brother
of Aimery d’Amboise, the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John in Rhodes. In
his letter of October 1507, Fra Sabba commented on the many excellent antique
sculptures to be found in the garden of the Grand Master at Rhodes, and one
presumes that there was a fairly active trade in antiquities between Rhodes, Venice,
and Milan at this time.51
Gian Cristoforo’s work as Isabella’s agent in Rome, and his association with
Julius II and Michelangelo, occurred virtually at the same time that Fra Sabba was
in Rhodes and in touch with antiquarian circles in Milan. Giovanni Agosti has
drawn needed attention to the many Milanese artists active in Rome immediately
before and during the Julian Renaissance.52 While Gian Cristoforo was in Rome,
he was associated with the large Milanese contingent of artists and architects that
Pope Julius had brought to the city to work on St. Peter’s, chiefly Bramante and
the goldsmith Caradosso Foppa. The fact that so many Milanese artists were key
contributors to the Julian Renaissance is significant in considering the tomb project:
Milan and its environs were home to many mausolea designs besides the monument
to Gian Galeazzo Visconti at the Certosa, perhaps the most significant being the
designs Leonardo made for a centrally-planned mausoleum that Galeazzo Maria
Sforza envisioned for Santa Maria delle Grazie (never executed).53 This general
expertise concerning mausolea plans, coupled with the excitement over excavations
at the Mausoleum site, must surely have had some influence on Julius’s thoughts
about his own tomb.
There is yet another suggestive link between the Mausoleum, Gian Cristoforo,
and Milan. Gian Cristoforo is mentioned by the Milanese architectural theorist
Cesare Cesariano in his Italian translation and Commentary on Vitruvius, printed
in Como in 1521 but written around 1508; the same edition includes a fantastical
woodcut of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (illustration 3). In his discussion of
symmetry, which includes a woodcut of his interpretation of the Vitruvian Man,
Cesariano lists Michelangelo and Gian Cristoforo Romano, as Fra Sabba did, as
the most significant sculptors of the age.54 In his Lives, Vasari linked Cesariano to
Sansovino and to Bramante in Rome, so he was evidently part of the same circles
in which Gian Cristoforo moved and worked.55
If the suggestion is that Gian Cristoforo was instrumental in bringing knowledge of the Mausoleum to Rome, what evidence do we have for his interest in
large-scale monumental architecture? While we have no autographed architectural
drawings that we can attribute to Gian Cristoforo, Ceriana asserts that he arrived
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 15
in Milan in 1491 with an album of drawings after antique architecture.56 Hubertus
Gunther demonstrated that at least one sheet of drawings made by Antonio da
Sangallo the Younger, now in the Uffizi, was drawn after originals by Gian Cristoforo
Romano (illustration 4). On this sheet, Sangallo noted that the measurements for the
depiction of the Arch of Constantine were based on calculations by Gian Cristoforo
Romano, and that the measurements are recorded in Mantuan braccia rather than
the more standard Venetian feet, a form of measurement that Gian Cristoforo had
adopted when he was working for Isabella at the Mantuan court (and one without
precedent in Sangallo’s work).57 Gunther also describes eight sheets of drawings
now in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence (part of Codex Magliabecchiana II-I429), made by a copyist after Sangallo, one sheet of which repeats the attribution
to Gian Cristoforo. He notes that the measurements on this sheet for the Arch of
Constantine and for the Arch of Septimus Severus “correspond perfectly to the
copies by Antonio.”58 Moreover, Gunther claims that these drawings appear to have
been models for later copyists and might ultimately have influenced depictions of
the arches of Constantine and Septimus Severus, the Pantheon, and other Roman
monuments by later artists like Serlio and Palladio. Thus, even though we possess no
original drawings by Gian Cristoforo, he can be linked to the creation of measured
drawings of antique monuments.
Antonio da Sangallo—who spent his career in Rome between 1515 and 1527,
and then worked in other cities until his death in 1546—made many drawings after
antique monuments, including a drawing of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (now
in the Uffizi) based on the literary account and the measurements given by Pliny.59
Although this drawing cannot be linked with any certainty to Gian Cristoforo,
Sangallo’s conceptualization of the Mausoleum demonstrates the sustained interest in its basic form during the period immediately after Gian Cristoforo and Fra
Sabba were in Rome. Furthermore, these kinds of imaginary reconstructions of the
Mausoleum had a distinct influence on tomb design over the course of the sixteenth
century, particularly via the circle of Raphael and especially in Mantua. For example,
when the Marchese Francesco II Gonzaga died in 1519, his son Frederico II Gonzaga
asked Baldassare Castiglione to solicit both Michelangelo and Raphael for designs
for his father’s tomb. The drawing he received from Raphael’s workshop depicted a
catafalque in the form of a stepped pyramid.60 Castiglione’s own monument, which
can still be seen in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie just outside Mantua, is
perhaps the most complete realization of the pyramidal crowning element of the
Mausoleum structure made for a Renaissance commemorative tomb (illustration
5). The tomb is actually a miniature version of the Mausoleum, a stepped pyramid
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16 Sally Hickson
leading up to the summit crowned with a figure of the resurrected Christ. Castiglione
ordered the design from Giulio Romano on 16 September 1523, only about a year
after reports that excavations at Bodrum had revealed the burial chamber, so the
mausoleum was very much in the news. Giulio Romano was undoubtedly influenced
by the Sangallo drawings that had circulated in Raphael’s workshop in Rome, but the
iterations of the form of the Mausoleum in Mantua circles might also have reflected
the Mantuan connection to Rhodes and its environs that had been established by
Fra Sabba da Castiglione.
Some Reflections on Gian Cristoforo, Michelangelo, and the Tomb
Based on Condivi’s account, it is clear that by April of 1505 Michelangelo had planned
most of the figures for the Julius tomb before he left for Carrara and disappeared
for about six to eight months.61 It was precisely during this period that Gian Cristoforo arrived in Rome. Not long after, Michelangelo returned to the city and the
Laocoön was discovered, which he and Gian Cristoforo inspected together at the
Pope’s command. It would have been easy enough, when Michelangelo was off in
Carrara for all those months, for the Milanese contingent in Rome (which included
Bramante, Gian Cristoforo, and Caradosso Foppa) to bend the Pope’s ear about an
overhaul of the tomb plan. And one of the most knowledgeable people would have
been Gian Cristoforo Romano, who had practical experience in tomb design, having trained under Bregno in Rome and worked on the mausoleum of Giangaleazzo
Visconti at the Certosa in Pavia. At the very least, Gian Cristoforo would have been
able to offer insights into the construction of the kind of monumental free-standing
architectural and sculptural ensemble that the Pope envisioned.
By May 1506 Michelangelo was back in Florence, having decided to quit the
tomb and leave Rome because Julius refused to give him any more money. During
this break he told Giuliano da Sangallo that he had discovered, while eavesdropping
on the Pope’s conversation with an unidentified jeweler (a description that could fit
Caradosso or even Gian Cristoforo himself), that Julius had decided that he would
not continue to finance Michelangelo’s tomb project. Michelangelo also confided
to Giuliano that his sudden departure had been spurred by “something else besides,
which I do not want to write about” alluding to a plot against his life.62 Condivi
reports that when Julius pressed him hard to return to Rome, Michelangelo entertained the idea of “going away to the Levant” to work for the sultan of Turkey who,
via the mediation of certain Franciscan friars, had promised to pay him handsomely
for designing a bridge from Constantinople to Pera.63 As far as I know no one has
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 17
ever wondered why, at this particular juncture, Michelangelo might have wanted
to go to Turkey. But the idea takes on greater significance if we remember that the
statement was made at precisely the time that the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
was of great contemporary interest in Roman circles and knowledge about the site
circulated between Gian Cristoforo Romano and his informants in Mantua and
on Rhodes itself.
Gian Cristoforo Romano enjoyed great fame in his own lifetime, often paired
in the contemporary literature with Michelangelo as one of the greatest sculptors
of his age. Despite this reputation, Vasari mentioned him only in passing in his
Lives, and from that time to the present, while scholars have largely managed to
reconstruct his artistic contributions in Milan and Mantua, his time in Rome
remains somewhat shrouded in mystery.64 Our understanding of Gian Cristoforo’s
time in Rome has undoubtedly long been overshadowed by our concentration
on the major artists of the period, particularly by the image of Michelangelo: the
singular, solitary, and superior genius forced to endure the tragedy of the tomb in
his struggle against the lies, innuendo, and jealousies of the Bramante faction in
Rome. Perhaps this is partially true, but we must take into account what modern
scholarship has taught us about Michelangelo’s working methods and his attitudes
towards collaboration and competition. Despite how hard Condivi tries to make it
seem as though Michelangelo never learned a thing from any other artist, William
Wallace observed that “Michelangelo hardly ever worked alone.”65 Vasari tells us
that when pressed to paint the Sistine ceiling, Michelangelo, at the Pope’s suggestion,
brought in a team of experienced fresco painters from Florence, only to dismiss
them when he had mastered the technique himself. After the cleaning of the ceiling, William Wallace showed the clear evidence of several hands in the execution
of details of the frescoes, demonstrating that Michelangelo certainly did not work
alone.66 Many years ago Hanno-Walter Kruft proposed that the Sicilian sculptor
Antonello Gagini contributed reliefs to the Julius tomb when he was in Rome in
1505/06, possibly working as Michelangelo’s assistant on the project.67 If Gagini was
involved in the project at such an early stage, then we must certainly consider the
idea that other more prominent sculptors, and possibly architects and antiquarians,
particularly those with expertise in tomb design and decoration, might also have
made contributions.
Collaboration was not beyond the scope of Michelangelo’s genius, but it seldom yielded successful results. In 1516, having taken up the Julius tomb again,
Michelangelo was approached by Leo X to embellish the Medici church of San
Lorenzo in Florence by creating an elaborate marble façade with several sculpted
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18 Sally Hickson
figures, originally in collaboration with Baccio d’Agnolo, who was to be capomaestro of the architectural portions of the program while Michelangelo carved the
figures.68 Although initially agreeable, Michelangelo grew increasingly impatient
with the Pope’s failure to provide enough money and with what he considered to
be Baccio’s sophomoric and inadequate architectural vision in light of his own
increasingly grandiose plans.69 Unsurprisingly, the collaboration dissolved and the
façade was never built. The “failed façade” should perhaps be viewed as a sequel to
the tragedy of the tomb.70
In Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture, Cammy Brothers
reminds us that “Michelangelo is too often studied in precisely the terms that he
defined, rather than in the relation to the culture from which he emerged. In the
case of architecture, the particular nature of Michelangelo’s approach to design
may be measured against the work of such contemporaries as Giuliano da Sangallo,
Francesco di Giorgio, Baldassare Peruzzi, and Raphael.”71 In this paper, I have
urged that Gian Cristoforo Romano, who was named by many contemporaries as
Michelangelo’s equal among the sculptors of the age, is another figure who must have
been important to the culture that shaped Michelangelo in Rome. He was certainly
with Michelangelo at precisely the time that he was designing the papal tomb; at
the same time, he was in touch with antiquarian culture in Milan and Mantua,
and was in a position to provide knowledge, both among the Milanese artists with
whom he worked and within papal circles, of activity at the site of the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus, a monument that might well have shaped Julius’s ideas about his
own tomb monument. At the very least, this reconsideration of Gian Cristoforo’s
time in Rome sheds new light on the complicated patterns of influence, collaboration,
suggestion, competition, and intrigue that truly shaped the Julian Renaissance in
Rome and provided the backdrop against which Michelangelo struggled with his
plans for the pope’s great mausoleum.
This article originated in a discussion I had at a conference of the Renaissance
Society of America with Dr. Sharon Gregory (now Erasmus Chair of Renaissance
Humanism at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia) and Allison
Morgan Sherman (currently completing her PhD in Art History at the University
of St. Andrew’s in Scotland), regarding the possible influence of the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus on Michelangelo’s design for the Julius tomb. At the time, I was
working with Dr. Clifford Malcolm Brown (now retired from Carleton University)
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 19
on a publication about Fra Sabba da Castiglione, and that work led me to think
about Gian Cristoforo Romano. I thank Professor Brown for introducing me to all
things Mantuan. I also sincerely thank the early and most recent readers of various
drafts of this essay whose sharp criticisms, probing and pertinent questions, and
keen insights were invaluable to the development of my ideas.
Illustration 1. Gian Cristoforo Romano and Benedetto Briosco, Monument to Gian Galeazzo
Sforza, Certosa di Pavia, Pavia. Alinari/Art Resource, NY
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20 Sally Hickson
Illustration 2. Michelangelo, Tomb of Julius II, Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, c1545.
Vanni/Art Resource, NY
Illustration 3. Cesare Cesariano, woodcut illustration of Halicarnassus, from Commento a
Vitruvio (Como: 1521), f.41v., 1521. Used with permission of the Upjohn-Waldie Collection,
John W. Graham Library, Trinity College, Toronto. Photo: Author.
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 21
Illustration 4. Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, The Arch of Constantine at Rome, after Gian
Cristoforo Romano, Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe, Uffizi, Florence. Scala/Ministero
per i Beni e le Attività culturali/ Art Resource, NY
Illustration 5. Giulio Romano, tomb of Baldassare Castiglione, church of Santa Maria delle
Grazie, Mantua, 1530s. Scala/Art Resource, NY.
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22 Sally Hickson
1. The key source for documents is still Adolfo Venturi, “Gian Cristoforo Romano,”
Archivio Storico dell’Arte 1 (1888), pp. 49–59, 107–18, 148–58. The July letter in which
Gian Cristoforo mentions his summons to Rome is 112, n.3; further documents
are provided in Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt, The Santa Casa di Loreto: Problems
in Cinquecento Sculpture (New York: Garland, 1977) and Andrea Norris, The Tomb
of Gian Galeazzo Visconti at the Certosa di Pavia, Ph. D. Dissertation New York
University, 1977 (Ann Arbor: 1991). For other reflections on his career see Cristina
de Benedictis, “Per Gian Cristoforo Romano,” Antichità Viva, 24.1–3 (Jan-June 1985),
pp. 135–37, and Andrea Norris “Gian Cristoforo Romano: The Courtier as Medallist,”
Studies in the History of Art 21 (1987), pp. 131–41. The most recent biographical account,
which does omit a few details about the artist’s time in the Veneto, is M. Ceriana,
“Ganti, Giovanni Cristoforo (Giancristoforo Romano),” Dizionario Bibliografico degli Italiani, v. 52 (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–, 1993), pp. 203–11.
A brief but excellent re-examination of his career is given by G. Romano, “Verso la
maniera moderna: da Mantegna a Raffaello,” Storia dell’arte italiana 6.1 (Turin, 1981),
pp. 57–63.
2. A close examination of this sojourn to Carrara is given in Michael Hirst,
“Michelangelo in 1505,” The Burlington Magazine 133.1064 (1991), pp. 760–66.
3. Clifford Brown and Sally Hickson, “Caradosso Foppa (ca. 1452–1526–27),” Arte
Lombarda 119 (1997), pp. 9–39.
4. A full account of the Andreasi monument was most recently given by Angela
Ghirardi, “Osanna Andreasi e Isabella d’Este. Tracce artistiche di un’amicizia,” in
Osanna Andreasi da Mantova 1449–1505. L’immagine di una mistica del Rinascimento,
ed. Renata Casarin (Mantua: Casandreasi, 2005), pp. 65–78.
5. Roberto Weiss, “The Medals of Pope Julius II (1503–1513),” Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes 28 (1965), pp. 163–82.
6. Weil-Garris Brandt, vol. 1, pp. 14–18.
7. In addition to Weiss, “The Medals of Pope Julius II,” Gian Cristoforo’s career in Rome
is also discussed by Paolo Giordani “Studi sulla scultura Romana del Rinascimento:
Gian Cristoforo Romano a Roma,” l’Arte 10 (1907) and John Graham Pollard et al.,
Reniassance Medals: Volume One: Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
8. Neither Isaia of Pisa nor Gian Cristoforo Romano are referred to in the contemporary literature by their family name, which was Ganti, see Ceriana, p. 21.
9. For Andrea Bregno see S. Maddalo, “Collezionismo antiquario e studio dell’antico
nella bottega di Andrea Bregno,” Arte e documenti 3 (1989), pp. 100–9, and C.
Crescentini, “‘Andreas Marmorarius Sculptor Egregius,’ e sua prima produzione
funeraria,” in Sisto IV. Le arti a Roma nel primo Rinascimento. Atti del Convegno, ed.
F. Benzi and C. Crescentini (Rome: Shakespeare and Company, 2000), pp. 362–
83. Andrea Sansovino, who was also called by Julius II from Florence to Rome in
1505, designed the tombs of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza (d.1505) and the monument
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 23
to Cardinal Girolamo della Rovere (d.1507), both in the choir of Santa Maria del
Popolo; see Christoph Luitpold Frommel, “Giulio II e il coro di Santa Maria del
Popolo,” Bolletino d’Arte (April-June 2000), pp. 1–34.
10. Sansovino also worked with the Bregno; it would be useful, in terms of the Julius
tomb, to delve further into his summons to Rome, and to consider his relationship
with Michelangelo. For Sansovino see George Haydn Huntley, Andrea Sansovino,
Sculptor and Architect of the Italian Renaissance (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1935); a recent review of the documents is Andrea Sansovino: I documenti,
edited by Nicoletta Baldini and Renato Giulietti (Florence: Maschietto & Musolino,
11. For which see Andrea Norris, The Tomb of Gian Galeazzo Visconti.
12. For the Trecchi tomb, first attributed to Gian Cristoforo by Marcantonio Michiel,
see Andrea Bacchi, “Da Gian Cristoforo Romano ad Alessandro Menganti: Note
sulla scultura del Cinquecento a Bologna,” Nuovi Studi, Rivista di arte antica e moderna, Anno I (1996), pp. 65–91, at 66–67 and ill. 138.
13. For a complete overview of Isabella’s career as a collector, see Clifford M. Brown, “Per
dare qualche splendore a la gloriosa cità da Mantua,” Documents for the Antiquarian
Collection of Isabella d’Este, with the collaboration of Anna Maria Lorenzoni and Sally
Hickson (Rome: Bulzoni, 2002). For a recent re-assessment of the painted allegories
made for Isabella’s studiolo, Stephen J. Campbell, The Cabinet of Eros. Renaissance
Mythological Painting and the Studiolo of Isabella d’Este (New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 2004).
1 4. For the portal, see Rodolfo Signorini, “Una ‘porta gemmea.’ Il portale della Grotta di
Isabella d’Este in Corte Vecchia,” in Per Mantova una vita. Studi in memoria di Rita
Castagna, edited by Anna Maria Lorenzoni and R. Navarrini (Mantua: Publi-Paolini,
1991), pp. 25–51.
15. Gian Cristoforo’s career as an antiquarian advisor in Mantua is most fully documented in the entries found in Brown, Per dare qualche splendore.
16. Baldassare Castiglione, The Courtier, translated by John Singleton (New York:
Doubleday, 1959), pp. 78–79. Gian Cristoforo is also included in the sonnets written by Antonio Cammelli, popularly known as “il Pistoia”; see I sonetti faceti di
Antonio Cammelli secondo l’autografo ambrosiano, ed. E. Percopò (Naples: N. Jovene,
1908) and Rime edite ed inedite di Antonio Cammelli ditto il Pistoia, ed. A. Cappelli e
S. Ferrari (Livorno: Vigo, 1888). For other literary references see Giovanni Romano,
“Verso la maniera moderna,” p. 57.
17. There is a vast literature on the Julius tomb. For early scholarship on the tomb as originally planned in 1505 see Erwin Panofsky, “The First Two Projects of Michelangelo’s
Tomb of Julius II,” The Art Bulletin 19.4 (December 1937): 561–79; Charles de Tolnay,
Michelangelo Vol. IV. The Tomb of Julius II. (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1954); Paul Joannides, “A Note on the Julius Tomb 1513,” The Burlington Magazine
113.816 (March 1971), pp. 148–50; Herbert von Einem, Michelangelo, trans. Ronald
Taylor (London: Methuen, 1973), pp. 39–49; Christoph Frommel, “Capella Iulia: Die
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24 Sally Hickson
Grabkapele Papst Julius II in Neu-St. Peter,” Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte XL (1977),
pp. 26–62; Edith Balas, “A hypothesis on Michelangelo’s 1505 project of the tomb
of Julius II,” Gazette des Beaux Arts, Series 6, 104 (October 1984), pp. 109–12. More
recently Claudia Echinger-Maurach, Studien zu Michelangelos Juliusgrabmal, 2 vols.
(Hildesheim, Zurich, New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1991); she mentions Frommel’s
reference to the Mausoleum in vol. 1, pp. 422–3, making the important distinction
that Condivi’s description does not include the stepped pyramid that was the crowning feature of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
For the “tragedy of the tomb” see Howard Hibbard, Michelangelo (2nd ed., Boulder,
Colorado: Westview Press, 1974), pp. 85–94.
Ascanio Condivi, Vita di Michelangelo Buonarotti (Milan: Rizzoli, 1964), pp. 40–41.
For the English translation see The Life of Michelangelo by Ascanio Condivi, translated
by Alice Sedgwick Wohl, ed. Hellmutt Wohl (London: Phaidon, 1976), p. 33: “And to
give some idea of it, I say briefly that this tomb was to have had four faces: two were
to have been eighteen braccia long to serve as the side and two of twelve as head and
foot, so that came to a square and a half. All around the exterior there were niches for
statues and between each niche and the next there were terms to which other statues
were bound like captives, upon certain cubical bases which rose from the ground
and projected outward. These represented the liberal arts, such as painting, sculpture, and architecture, each with its attributes so that it could easily be recognized
for what it was, signifying thereby that all the artistic virtues were prisoners of death
together with Pope Julius, so they would never find another to favor and foster them
as he did. Above these statues ran a cornice which bound the whole work together, on
which level there were four large statues, one of which, namely the Moses, appears
in S. Pietro in Vincoli; and this will be discussed in its proper place. Continuing upward, the work terminated in a surface upon which there were two angels supporting
a sarcophagus: one of them seemed to smile as if rejoicing that the soul of the pope
had been received among the blessed spirits, the other to weep as if grieving that
the world should be stripped of such a man. Through one end, the one which was at
the upper side, one entered into a small chamber within the tomb resembling a tempietto, in the center of which was a marble chest where the body of the pope was to be
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. 62.93.1, Michael Hirst, Michelangelo
and His Drawings (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 81–82
and plate 173.
Cammy Brothers, Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008) agrees with Hirst’s evalution of the
drawing, which she also reproduces as illustration 121, p. 88.
Brothers, in Michelangelo, offers the clearest analysis of the existing drawings in terms
of the evolution of the tomb from the 1505 plan to the one in 1513. For the 1513 plan, by
Giacomo Rocchetti, copy of Michelangelo’s 1513 design for the tomb of Julius II, pen
and ink, wash, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. KdZ 15306, see
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 25
2 4.
2 6.
2 8.
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her illustration 144, 103; for the drawing in the Uffizi, inv. 608Er, see illustration 145,
104. For her analysis of how the tomb developed through the drawings, pp. 87–91 and
102–4. There are also sketches on a sheet in the Ashmolean Museum which could be
preparatory studies for the slaves, but which do nothing to elucidate the original plan
for the tomb; see Paul Joannides, The Drawings of Michelangelo and His Followers in
the Ashmolean Museum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 120–6.
Brothers, pp. 104–5.
Brothers uses the term “compromised,” p. 87.
Alfred Frazer, “A Numismatic Source for Michelangelo’s First Design for the Tomb
of Julius II,” The Art Bulletin 57.1 (March 1975), pp. 53–57.
von Einem, p. 44; Christoph Frommel, “Giulio II e il Coro di Santa Maria del Popolo,”
Bolletino d’Arte 85.112 (2000), pp. 1–78; Brothers also cites the Rucellai Chapel and
the Sforza monument as important precedents to the Julian tomb (p. 87).
Frommel, “Capella Iulia,” p. 38.
Pliny. Natural History, with an English translation by H. Rackham, Loeb Classical
Library, 10 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956–), vol. 10, Book 36,
pp. iv, pp. 30–32, at p. 23 and p. 25. See Rackham’s comments on how to interpret
the measurements given by Pliny. John Bury, “Chapter III of the Hypnerotomachia
Poliphili and the Tomb of Mausolus,” Word & Image 14.1–2 (January/June 1998),
pp. 40–60, also discusses Pliny’s measurements.
For an exploration of the importance of Pliny’s text to antiquarians eager to identify and codify their antiquarian finds in Rome, see Michael Koortbojian, “Pliny’s
Laocoön?” in Antiquity and Its Interpreters, eds. Alina Payne, Ann Kuttner, Rebekah
Smick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 199–216.
Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture, trans. Ingrid D. Rowland, commentary and
illustrations by Thomas Noble Howe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999),
Book 2.8, at pp. 40–41; for the possibility that Vitruvius visited Halicarnassus see the
Introduction to this translation at p. 6.
The archaeological history of the site is reviewed briefly in Sandro de Maria and
Simone Rambaldi, “Sabba da Castiglione e gli albori dell’archeologia greca,” in
Sabba da Castiglione 1480–1554, Dalle corte rinascimentali alla Commenda di Faenza,
Atti del Convegno, Faenza, 19–20 maggio 2000, ed. Anna Rosa Gentilini (Florence,
Olschki, 2004), pp. 329–56.
For Cyriacus, see Edward W. Bodnar, Cyriacus of Ancona and Athens (Brussels:
Latomus, 1960) and Phyllis W. Lehmann, Samothracian Reflections: Aspects of the
Revival of the Antique (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973). For a summary of his activities within the broader scope of contemporary antiquarian culture, see Patricia Fortini Brown, Venice & Antiquity: The Venetian Sense of the Past
(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), pp. 81–91. Bury suggests that
Cyriacus might well have transmitted knowledge about the Mausoleum in his diaries
or Commentarii, which survive only in incomplete copies (p. 50).
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26 Sally Hickson
33. For the Cesariano woodcut of the Mausoleum site, see Vitruvio De Architectura,
Translato e commento et affigurato da Caesare Caesariano 1521, Arnoldo Bruschi,
Adriano Carugo e Francesco Paolo Fiore, eds. (Milan: Edizioni Il Polifilo, 1981), f.41v;
for some insight into Cesariano’s sources for his illustrations, see the Introduction to
this volume by Arnaldo Bruschi, pp. lxv–lxxviii. It would be interesting to know if
any of these reconstructions were influenced by the second-century Roman tomb
that still survives at Milas (now Gümüşkesen), thought to be based on the design of
the Mausoleum; see John Freely, Classical Turkey (San Francisco: Chronicle Books,
1990), pp. 96–97. This tomb is mentioned briefly in connection to the nineteenthcentury reconstruction in Bury, p. 46. The most comprehensive synthesis of the influence of the Mausoleum in the Renaissance is in The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos.
Report of the Danish Archaeological Expedition to Bodrum, Pul Pedersen and Kristian
Jeppesen, eds., vol. 2, part 2: Anthony Luttrell, The Later History of the Maussolleion
and its Utilization in the Hospitaller Castle at Bodrum (Copenhagen: Distributed
through Aarhus University Press, 1986), pp. 114–214.
34. Luttrell, p. 177.
35. When it arrived in Venice, the statue was first purchased by the jeweller Giovanni
Andrea da Fiore but then went to the collector Andrea Martini, a member of the
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. For its history see Irene Favaretto, Arte antica e
cultura antiquaria nelle collezioni venete al tempo della Serenissima (Rome: “L’Erma”
di Bretschneider, 1990), pp. 124–25; see also Marilyn Perry, “A Greek Bronze in
Renaissance Venice,” The Burlington Magazine 117 (1975), pp. 204–11. For the letter of
Lorenzo di Pavia, see Brown, Per dare qualche splendore, pp. 176–77.
36. ASM, b.283, Mario Equicola in Blois to Margherita Cantelma in Mantua, 25 November
1501: “… Dell’andata de Ioan Christofano nostro in Levante ne piglio dispiacere per
non essere la conditione de’ tempi tale che da quelle part posa reportare né honore
né utile et li periculi sì terrestri sì maritimi essere evidenti et grandissimi. Questa sua
così inopinata partita certo ho la casuata desperatione dede amore overo extrema
pazia: qual sia da queste quella il iudiche, cognoscendo lui como mi el cognosco.”
I wish to thank Anna Maria Lorenzoni, now retired from the Archivio di Stato in
Mantua, for checking this transcription for me.
37. Brown, Per dare qualche splendore, pp. 212–14.
38. For the Sleeping Cupids see Brown, Per dare qualche splendore, pp. 111–12, 160–72 and
39. The story of the Laocoön is famous and repeated in virtually every source on
Michelangelo; the main documents are summarized by Giovanni Poggi in Il
Carteggio di Michelangelo, eds. Paola Barocchi and Renzo Ristori, vol. 1 of 7 vols.
(Florence: Sansoni, 1965), pp. 359–60. A synopsis of the discovery of the Laocoön and
an incisive analysis of the meaning of the work in the context of antiquarian culture
in the Renaissance is found in Leonard Barkan, Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and
Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1999), pp. 2–17. Any modern account of the Laocoön must take into consideration
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 27
Lynn Catterson’s argument that the statue might have been Michelangelo’s most successful forgery, for which see her “Michelangelo’s ‘Laocoön?,’” Artibus et Historiae
26.52 (2005), pp. 29–56. The most obvious argument against this hypothesis is the
fact that such a ruse would have required a number of conspirators to be successful, among them Gian Cristoforo Romano who later inspected the statue with
Michelangelo at the request of Julius II (see below).
40. Brown, Per dare qualche splendore, pp. 216–18.
41. Sabadino concludes his letter to Isabella of 31 January saying: “El cardinale San Piero
ad Vincula glie ne ha voluto dare mille ducati [for the Laocoön], monsignor nostro
reverendissimo le voleva, el papa gli ha decto che non ne facia contracto alchuno che
lui le vole. Tutta Roma die noctuque concorre a quella casa che lì pare el iubileo. La
magiore parte de li cardinali li sono iti ad vedere. Lui le tene in la sua camera apresso
lo lecto ben guardate.” Ibid., 217–8. An English translation of the letter is found in
Koortbojian, p. 200, but he gives the date as 15 January.
42. Brown, Per dare qualche splendore, p. 218.
43. This part of Trivulzio’s letter is found in English translation in Barkan, p. 112. They
were asked to assess whether, as Pliny reported, the statue was made of a single block.
Their inspection determined that there were four joins in the marble.
44. For Gian Cristoforo’s work as an appraiser of Antonio Lombardo’s relief of the
Miracle of the Speaking Babe in Padua, see Anne Markham Schulz, Giambattista and
Lorenzo Bregno. Venetian Sculpture in the High Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), pp. 106–7. This reference seems to have been overlooked in
the general literature about Gian Cristoforo, but is important evidence of his activities in Venice and the Veneto.
45. Charles Robertson, “Bramante, Michelangelo and the Sistine Ceiling,” Journal of the
Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 49 (1986), pp. 91–105.
46. I due testamenti di Fra Sabba da Castiglione, ed. Santa Cortese (Ravenna: Stefano
Casanova Editore, 2000), p. xiii. In his correspondence with Isabella, Fra Sabba actively sought a post with Sixtus Gara della Rovere, a nephew of Julius II in Rome who
became Vice-Chancellor of the church and occupied the Palazzo della Cancelleria
from 1508 until his death in 1517, but Isabella was unable to secure this for him; see
Brown and Hickson, “Sabba ed Isabella d’Este Gonzaga,” in Sabba da Castiglione,
p. 290.
47. Luttrell, p. 177. See also Rodolfo Signorini, “Gonzaga Tombs and Catafalques,” in
Splendours of the Gonzaga, eds. David Chambers and Jane Martineau (London:
Victoria & Alberti, 1981), pp. 3–14. A drawing of the catafalque in the Archivio di
Stato in Mantua is given at p. 4; a drawing attributed to Alfonso Cittadella of a tomb
similar to this catafalque, which was projected but never built, is found at p. 11.
48. In Fra Sabba da Castiglione, Riccordi ovvero ammaestramenti, a cura di Santa Cortesi
(Faenza: Stefano Casanova Editore, 1999), Ricordo 109, “Circa gli ornamenti della
casa,” “E chi le adorna con le opera del mio Giovan Cristoforo Romano, il quale, oltra
le altre virtù e massimamente la musica, fu al suo tempo scultore eccellente e famoso
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28 Sally Hickson
5 4.
e molto delicato e diligente, cone si vede per molti lavori di sua mano in Milano e in
Mantoa e massimamente per la nobile e ingegnosa sepoltura di Galeazzo Visconti
nella Certosa di Pavia. E se non che nella età su più verde e più fiorita fu assalito
d’incurabile infermità forse tra li due primi stato sarebbe il terzo,” meaning he would
place him next to Michelangelo and Apelles, pp. 160–1. For the most recent studies of
Fra Sabba da Castiglione see the essays in Sabba da Castiglione 1480–1554, Dalle corte
rinascimentali alla Commenda di Faenza, Atti del Convegno, Faenza, 19–20 maggio
2000, ed. Anna Rosa Gentilini (Florence, Olschki, 2004); for an examination of his
Ricordi, see Antonietta Paolillo, Fra Sabba da Castiglione. Antiquario e Teorico del collezionismo nella Faenza del 1500 (Faenza: Stefano Casanova Editore, 2000).
“Monsignore de Chiamonte, governatore de Milano, scriva al reverendissimo monsignore gran mastro de Rhode (Aimery d’Amboise), suo ció sive barba, come al presente glie acade a certi soi prepositi de havere bisogno grandissimo de statue et altre
antiquitati, et per esser l’insola de Rhode, et parimenti quello de lango et Castello
Santo Pietro, over gli e la sepultura che fece Artimisia a Mausoleo, suo marito, luogi
copisi de queste cose, suplica a la sua signoria reverendissima che quella se degni
di fargline parte,” (ASM, b.799), in Clifford M. Brown and Sally Hickson, “Sabba da
Castiglione ed Isabella d’Este Gonzaga. Fra Rodi e Mantova,” pp. 195–97; see the
checklist of documents concerning Fra Sabba’s period in Rhodes at pp. 193–312.
Rhodes, pp. 169 and 181.
For antiquarians in Milan see Giovanni Agosti, Bambaia e il classicismo a Roma
(Turin: Einaudi, 1990), pp. 47–68; he discusses Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, Giovanni
Francesco Marliano, and the rich collection of gems and miniature bronzes left as
part of the estate of Giovanni Sforza of Pesaro, acquired by Isabella d’Este after long
negotiations in 1515 (pp. 66–67). For these negotiations see Brown, Per dare qualche
splendore, pp. 266–73.
Agosti, Bambaia, pp. 68–102.
For some insights into mausolea in Milan see Sabina Eiche and G. Lubkin, “The
Mausoleum Plan of Galeazzo Maria Sforza,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen
Institutes in Florenz 22 (1988), pp. 547–53. For Leonardo’s possible drawing of the
Sforza mausoleum plan (in the Ashburnham Codes) see Martin Kemp, Leonardo
da Vinci: The Marvelous Works of Nature and Man (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2006), p. 90. In the Lombard context, there is also the example of the funerary
chapel of Bartolomeo Colleoni in Bergamo; see Giles Knox, “The Colleoni Chapel
in Bergamo and the politics of urban space,” Journal of the Society of Architectural
Historians 60.3 (September 2001), pp. 290–309.
“… hano con epse symmetrie immitate da le bone stature operato cose che quasi
de alcuni Italiani pono essere a la comparatione de epsi antiqui: Si como Michele
Angelo Fiorentino: Ioanne Christoforo Romano, Il nostro Christoforo dicto il
Gobo: & Augustino Busto Mediolensi: Tullio Lombardo in Venetia: Bartholameo
Clemento in Regio di Lombardi: & molti altri che floreno per le loro opere in
Italia sono digni di essere comendati con maxime laude,” in Cesariano, Commento
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Gian Cristoforo Romano in Rome 29
a Vitruvio, f.XLVIIIv; the reference to Gian Cristoforo was mentioned by Julius
Schlosser Magnino, La letteratura artistica: Manuale delle fonti della storia dell’arte
moderna, trans. Filippo Rossi (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1964), p. 252. For an analysis of Cesariano’s commentary in the context of works dedicated to Lombard artists
in this period, see Giovanni Agosti, “Scrittori che parlano di artisti, tra Quattro e
Cinquecento in Lombardia,” in Quattro Pezzi Lombardi (per Maria Teresa Binaghi),
eds. Barbara Agosti, Giovanni Agosti, Carl Brandon Strehlke and Marco Tanzi
(Edizioni l’Obliquo, 1998), pp. 39–93.
55. Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors and architects etc., trans.
Gaston de Vere, 10 vols. (London: MacMillan & Co., 1912–5), vol. 9, p. 190.
56. Ceriana, p. 206
57. Hubertus Gunther, “Méthodes scientifiques modernes et archeologues de la renaissance, études inconnues to Gian Cristoforo Romano,” in Archives et histoire de
l’architecture: Actes du colloque des 5, 6, et 7 mai 1988 a Paris, ed. Pierre Joly (Paris:
Villette, 1990), pp. 212–42.
58. Gunther, pp. 225–26.
59. The drawing, “Florence, Uffizi, Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe UA1037,” is
reproduced by Frommel, “Cappella Iulia,” p. 38; see also Echinger-Maurach,
Michelangelos Juliusgrabmal, vol. 1, pp. 422–23. In Architectural Drawings of Antonio
da Sangallo the Younger, vol. 1, Fortifications, Machines and Festival Architecture, eds.
Christoph L. Frommel and Nicholas Adams (New York: Architectural History
Foundation 1994), there is a description of another sheet, U857A, recto, “Studies of
the volume of a pyramid (possibly related to the reconstruction of the Mausoleum of
Halicarnassus or duplication of squares described in Vitruvius,” before 1530 (p. 158).
60. For the catafalque for Francesco II Gonzaga, Rodolfo Signorini, “Gonzaga Tombs and
Catafalques,” in Splendours of the Gonzaga, eds. David Chambers and Jane Martineau
(London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1981), pp. 3–13, the drawing is illustration
7, “Catafalque of Marchese Francesco Gonzaga,” ASMAGb. 85 reg. 10c 125r. These
monuments are also discussed by Luttrell, p. 177; Frommel, “Cappella Iulia,” p. 42,
and Echinger-Maurach, vol. 1, p. 423. For more reflections on the influence of the
Mausoleum on Mantuan tomb monuments, see de Maria and Rambaldi, “Sabba da
Castiglione e gli albori dell’archeologia Greca,” in Sabba da Castiglione, pp. 329– 56.
61. See Hirst’s re-examination of the documents for Michelangelo’s time in Carrara,
“Michelangelo in 1505,” pp. 760–66.
62. Il Carteggio di Michelangelo, Barocchi and Ristori, VIII, 13, Michelangelo in Firenze a
Giuliano da Sangallo in Roma, 2 maggio 1506, sabato: “Della partita mia, egli è vero
che io udi’ dire el Sabato Santo al Papa, parlando chon uno g[i]oelliere. a.catavola, e
chol maestro delle cerimonie, che non voleva spendere più uno baiocho né in pietre
pichole né in grosse: ond’io ne presi amiratione assai; pure, inanzi che io mi partissi,
gli domandai parte del bixognio mio per seguire l’opera.” He adds later “Ma questa
solo non fu cagione interamente della mia partita, ma fu pure altra cosa, la quale
non voglio scrivere; basta ch’ella mi fe’ pensare, s’i’ stavo a.rRoma, che fussi facta
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30 Sally Hickson
prima la sepultura mia che quella del Papa. E questa fu chagione della mia partita
sùbita.” Paul Barolsky investigates the various explanations Michelangelo invented
over the years as to why he felt compelled to leave Rome at this time, in The Faun in
the Garden. Michelangelo and the Poetic Origins of Italian Renaissance Art (University
Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), pp. 120–28.
63. Condivi, Life of Michelangelo (Wohl trans.), p. 37.
64. “A pupil of Paolo [Romano] was the Roman Gian Cristoforo, who was an able sculptor: and there are certain works by his hand in S. Maria Trastevere and in other
places,” Vasari, Lives (deVere translation), vol. 3, ch. 54, 92
65. William Wallace, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Genius as Entrepreneur
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 4. For more reflections on
Michelangelo’s dependence on other artists, see Robertson, pp. 91–105.
66. See William Wallace, “Michelangelo’s Assistants in the Sistine Chapel,” in The Sistine
Chapel (Michelangelo: Selected Scholarship in English). (London: Routledge, 1995),
pp. 327–40.
67. Hanno-Walter Kruft, “Antonello Gagini as Co-Author with Michelangelo on the
Tomb of Pope Julius II,” The Burlington Magazine 117.870 (September 1975), pp. 598–
99 and 601.
68. On Baccio as collaborator see Wallace, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, particularly
pp. 9–12.
69. He actually called Baccio’s model for the façade “childish”; see Rona Goffen,
Renaissance Rivals. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian (New Haven & London,
2002), p. 243.
70. The expression is used by Wallace to characterize the façade project, in Michelangelo
at San Lorenzo, p. 17.
71. Brothers, Michelangelo, p. 48.
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